I decided to post my return from Australia...why I dont know, but I just felt like it I suppose. I did not take notes on the flights, so this is purely from memory what happened...
For those who missed the "going" TR it can be found here:
I went with a group of 14 teenagers (+2 adult leaders) from all over the US to do adventurism activities in Far North Queensland...these included:
Rainforest hike in Woonoorooran National Park
Outback hike near Lakefield National Park to see Aboriginal rock art
Beach hike on Cape Grafton
Kayaking in the Barnard Islands
Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef
Whitewater rafting on the North Johnstone River
Here is the report:
July 25, 2001
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Our last full day in Australia was spent doing a variety of things. In the morning we cleaned out the tents and equipment, and packed up our stuff. Once that was done, we left our campsite, the Cool Waters Caravan Park, to take the Sun Bus public trans into downtown Cairns so that we could be tourists for a day and buy souvenirs. Downtown Cairns turned out to be a huge tourist trap, so this was no problem at all, and I went on a spending rampage, since I am big on souvenir shopping. Around 5:30 PM we took the bus back to the caravan park and dropped our souvenirs off, and then headed back into Cairns for dinner. We ate at a restaurant called the Villa Romana I think, right on the Esplanade, and the meal was pretty good. After dinner was complete we headed to a sandy patch in a nearby park to have a closing ceremony to our trip, then we headed to a flea market for a while while we waited for a bus to come to take us back. By the time we got back to Cool Waters, it was about 12:15 AM and all of us were pretty tired, but we had agreed that we would pull an all nighter, since our flight from CNS to SYD left at 5:30 AM, so we wouldnt be sleeping very long any way.
July 26, 2001
Once at Cool Waters, we made sure that all our gear and personal belongings were packed up, then retreated into the laundry there, a lighted area, to hang out and kill the several hours necessary until 4 AM when a bus was slated to come pick us up and take to the airport. Alas, in the end, most people didnt make the run, I personally fell asleep about 2:30 AM, only to be shaken awake at 3:15 AM by one of the trip leaders to prepare for the bus's arrival.
Ansett Australia 227 (c/s with Air New Zealand as NZ 3227)
Scheduled Departure 5:30 AM
Scheduled Arrival 8:30 AM
The bus arrived promptly at 4 AM, with a trailer attached for luggage, and we quickly loaded it and within 10 minutes we were off to Cairns International Airport. The drive took about 25 minutes, during which most of us fell asleep again, but as we pulled onto the airport access road I shook myself awake to watch the proceedings. I noticed that we were about to be let off at the Qantas terminal in CNS, but I was too drowsy to say anything. We offloaded the trailer, and just as we finished offloading, someone came to their senses and realized we were at the wrong terminal, so we reloaded and drove off to the Ansett terminal. After unloading there, we got into the queue for check-in, and it was surprisingly long for 4:30 AM considering that AN 227 was the first flight out. The queue itself began to stretch outside for a brief period of time, and the wait ended up being about 20 minutes or so. When it was my turn, I walked up to the desk and was checked in by a friendly but straight forward Ansett agent for AN 227 and NZ 14 to LAX. I was pleased to note that I had window seats on both flights, seat 5F on the Ansett flight and 34A on the Air New Zealand flight. By that time it was about 5:05 or so, so with my leaders permission I headed through security with my hefty sized carry-on and to the gate to board Ansett 227. Boarding was already in progress when I reached the gate, so I stepped in the short line to board.
At boarding, I handed my boarding pass to another agent, who took it and typed something into a computer and handed it back, permitting me to pass the counter into the odd jetway, which was much different from any jetway that I had been on previously. In the middle of the jetway was a bin full of headsets, so I took one, and then continued onboard the 737-300. Nobody was behind me, so I stopped and asked the f/a greeting people if a cockpit visit would be possible, and she replied that the jumpseats were full but I could "peek my head in" if I wanted to. I said I'd love to and told her I would be in seat 5F. I stowed my carry-on in an overhead bin and took my seat in 5F, no one had occupied 5D or E yet, so I wondered who my seatmates would be. As it turned out, two of my friends took the seats, Michelle in 5D and Gillian in 5E, both extremely friendly girls, and I was pleased that they would be my seatmates. As I was getting settled in, Gillian leaned over to me and whispered if she could have some Tim-Tams. You see, on the 25th, as part of my souvenir shopping, I bought a large stash, 12 boxes to be exact, of Tim-Tams to bring home, since they were soooo delicious and are not currently available in the US. I intentionally left them in my carry-on so that I could munch on them during the flights ahead of me. I told her that I would be bringing them out later, and of course she could have some. She liked that response greatly, and then promptly drifted to sleep on my shoulder.
Ansett 227 pushed back sometime after that and proceded to backtaxi along runway 33. At the end, the aircraft wheeled around to make a 180 and be on runway 15. As the engines began to spool up to take-off thrust, I started my stopwatch so that I wouldn't lose track of time. Take-off was pleasant, and the aircraft climbed away to the south-east towards SYD. As the aircraft began to level off, Gillian shifted positions, enabling me to get an evaluation form out of my daypack and I pulled down the tray table and began working on that, and also an immigration departure form that was given to me when I checked in. The f/a's promptly began coming around with a cold breakfast service, only one choice, which I took out of curiosity, and it was a basic continental breakfast, consisting of yogurt, a muffin, some fruit, juice, and a small candy bar. I wasnt too hungry, so I ate just the candy and drank the juice, and when the bar service came around, I declined to have anything. Around that time I also remember taking the safety card from the pocket. I have to say Ansett's safety cards are the nicest of the 6 airlines that I have flown far and away, with images of the aircraft directly on the cards. Sometime after that I just uncontrollably fell asleep, and when I woke up, 2 hours had elapsed since take-off. I decided it was time to get out the promised Tim-Tams, but I couldnt figure out how to. However, another person on the trip, Lisa, came walking up the aisle, so I asked her to get my bag down and pass it, which she did, and then continued on her merry way to talk to the people in row 4, starboard side, who also were on the trip. I discreetly opened the bag and removed a package of the dark Tim-Tams and opened them, taking one for myself and passing it to Gill who passed it to Meesh, and the cycle continued until all 11 were gone. What a delicious snack that was! Lisa came back up the aisle so I asked her to put the bag back, and again she did. Shortly after that, I felt the sensation of weightlessness as the aircraft began its initial descent into SYD. About 25 minutes later, we touched down on runway 34R, and began a lengthy taxi to the Ansett terminal at SYD. I noted with a twang of disappointment that my cockpit visit never happened, but it was partially my fault for not following up on it because I was so tired. We pulled up to the jetway in SYD in the very nice Ansett terminal, which impressed me a lot, and seeing as I was one of the first off, I had to wait in the gate area for the other people to disembark.
July 26, 2001
When all 16 people were accounted for, we headed off to the bus transfer office so that we could catch a shuttle bus to the international terminal. When we got there, we were informed that we had just missed the bus and that it would be about 15 minutes, so we took a seat in the small waiting lounge. I used the time to call home and talk to my parents for a little bit, until an Ansett representative came in and told us that we should go downstairs to the bus loading platform as a bus would be coming shortly. We made our way downstairs to the exit, but stayed inside. The windows down there offered a full panorama of the tarmac, but unfortunately there was little activity on the ramp. We waited down there for another 10 minutes until the bus finally showed and we boarded for the brief 15 minute drive across the tarmac, a spotter's paradise of a ride, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Once at the international terminal, we hurried through a maze of corridors, since our connection was getting tighter and tighter, into the large departure hall for immigration. Since I had already filled out the necessary paperwork, I was able to breeze through, although I noticed with disgust that the inspector put the departure stamp on page 20 of my passport, leaving a gap of 12 pages between stamps, I was slightly peeved by that but I didnt have much choice in the matter. Not knowing what to do from there, whether to wait for the entire group or to go straight to the gate, I saw a few other people from my group and we decided to go to the gate and wait. Several people neglected to fill out the paperwork, and thus got held behind while they filled it out. We proceeded through the duty-free shopping, and to the gate, where boarding was in progress for Air New Zealand flight 14.
July 26, 2001
Air New Zealand 14
Pacific Class, Seat 34A
We were now at the gate, and I desperately had to go use the bathroom, but the flight was boarding and I didnt know what to do. I decided to risk it and shouted to my friends that I would be right back. Fortunately the men's room was not too far away and I was in and out in a jiffy and when I got back to my friends, they said that no one else had shown. Just then, one of the trip leaders showed up, very out of breath because the flight was scheduled to leave any minute, and shouted for us to get on the plane. We got into the very short line and did just that. I handed my boarding pass over and my passport and after a brief inspection I was permitted to board. Through the jetway I went and at door 2L of the 747 was a smiling flight attendant who asked to see my boarding pass, so I showed it and was directed to my seat of 34A. 34A turned out to be just in front of door 3L, with a window fortunately, and the seat itself turned out to be very comfortable, and I was very impressed by Air New Zealand's Pacific Class seat, the footrest and winged headrest really do make a difference. The first f/a that walked by I "flagged down" and inquired again about a cockpit visit. This time, the response was that I should remind her after the 1st meal service and she would see what she could do. The question in my mind was whether or not I could stay awake for it, as I was feeling really fatigued still. I paged through the Air New Zealand magazine, and as I was doing so, a man in his late 40’s came and took the aisle seat in my row, dashing my hopes for my own row for the flight, which would have been awesome! Fortunately no one took the middle seat so I did have some space however. We pushed back and made a fairly short taxi to runway 34L, where we departed in a fairly long roll, then climbed almost immediately into clouds, where wingtip vortices became very prominent, and I had a front row seat for them. I was still feeling incredibly tired but I tried and tried to stay awake cause I really wanted that cockpit visit, but…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…I fell asleep sometime within 15 minutes of takeoff, and about an hour into the flight, I saw the breakfast cart about 5 rows up, but I wasn’t hungry because of my Tim-Tam snack, and sleep seemed to take priority (why the cockpit visit didn’t motivate me to stay awake still puzzles me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance since I almost never fly international carriers, in fact, this trip was the first time I have flown on a non-USA carrier), so I dozed back off, and ended up missing breakfast but it didn’t bother me. A few hours later, I woke up again to see the skyshop cart come around, and I wanted to get the Air New Zealand 744 Snap-Tite model, so when they got to my row, I made the purchase for only US $12, and my seatmate bought about US $250 worth of cologne and perfume! This reminded me to get the safety card, which I discreetly swiped from the middle seat after the cart left, and also a set of headphones, since they were single jacked (meaning that they worked on my discman), and had “Air New Zealand” and their logo on the bridge of them. I then glanced up at the main cabin screen, where the airshow map was showing, and my suspicions about location were confirmed: out over the ocean, with hours to go until landfall. I decided the best course of action was to go back to sleep, and again I dozed for several hours. When I woke up again, I groggily saw my seatmate get up to use the lavs and I took the opportunity to escape the seated position to stretch my legs and use the lav also. When I got back to my row after doing those things, I reached up into the overhead, pulled out my red duffel, and dug out a box of Tim-Tams since I was getting really hungry by that point. I tossed the succulent sweets on my seat and restowed my bag in the overhead. Once I sat down, I promptly devoured the entire box of them, all 11 bars (they are bite-size for those who arent familiar with them), and just as I finished my seatmate returned from whereever he had been. He observed that I was awake, and then went into a brief rant about how I had missed both food services, and how I could ask the flight attendants for them if I wished. I politely declined and attempted to return to sleep, but I found it difficult, even with the soft sounds of Dave Matthews Band playing in my discman. I soon realized that my throat was getting incredibly dry, and that could be the cause of my sleeping problems. I waited anxiously for the next pass by the f/a’s with the water jug, and it took 30 minutes before they showed up. When the f/a finally made it to my row, I thirstily accepted it and threw it down in two shots from the incredibly tiny but stylish cup. With my throat feeling a little better, I adjusted the headrest and footrest and again attempted to fall asleep, but again I miserably failed in the effort. I now knew that I wasn’t going to fall asleep for the rest of the flight, so I resigned myself to doing various other things for the 3 hours or so that were left on the flight, including customs forms, reading, and literally twiddling my thumbs when the boredom got high. Once the IFE selection of the flight was done, there was 45 minutes left according to the Airshow map and info, and I began watching that constantly as it flashed by in English, French and German on the screen. About 30 minutes out, a brief video was shown on LAX and the city itself, and seeing that I wasn’t staying in LA, there was no reason to watch it. During the video, the first hint of the sun popping above the horizon took place, so I focused my attention on my window as we descended inbound to LAX. The aircraft swooped over the coast of LAX, extended eastbound for about 5 minutes, the made a left hand 180 and touched down somewhat smoothly at LAX 12 hours and 57 minutes after leaving Sydney. We quickly taxied to Terminal 2 (I forgot the gate number) and disembarked. I cleared immigration rapidly, noting that the stamp in my passport was very light and hard to see (as of now it is even less visible because another stamp from a later trip inadvertently was placed on top of it), and made my way to baggage claim, where I was pleased to find my bags come off the packed belt in a short period of time. I couldn’t find my leaders, and I didn’t wanna go through customs without them knowing, so I used the phones in the baggage hall and again called my parents to tell them that I had survived. Once I hung up, I managed to find one of my leaders, and they permitted me to go through customs. First I had to pass through food inspection, where the inspector noted that I had checked off the box that says “Yes, I am bringing in food to the USA” He asked what kind of food and I replied “Chocolate biscuits”. He pondered this for a moment and then allowed me to pass through to the real customs tables, where my bags were given a cursory inspection and my forms were checked to see if they were properly filled out, which they were. Seeing that there were no discrepancies at all with anything, I passed through and decided to wait in clear view of everyone else instead of moving to the arrivals lounge. Several minutes passed, and slowly but surely the rest of my group was making its way through the lines as well, and when everyone cleared, we moved up into the arrivals lounge. There, Gill met up with her family (she is from the SoCal area), and the rest of us just hug out while the leaders tried to sort out who had to go where to catch flights home. My flight was one of the later flights of the group, so I was resigned to sitting around the lounge until it was time for me to go. As various people left to catch their respective flights, some heading to UA, some to HP, some to US, and some to AA I said a somewhat sad goodbye to them. Soon there was just three of us left in the lounge, me, and two others. They would be taking N7 to EWR via LAS, and I was waiting for my US flight to PHL. I spent the wait calling home yet again, pigging out on chocolate (not Tim-Tams, but Reeses Cups, which I noticed werent sold in Oz). I also meandered over to Starbucks, for a frappucino which they managed to mess up by putting whip on it when I clearly said to them “no whip”. Airport Starbucks shops have a bad habit of doing that, it’s the third time that Ive had a frappucino order get SNAFU’d like that at an airport (the other two were at CLT). Finally, it was time for me to move to the USAirways terminal to catch my flight.
July 26, 2001
US Airways 8
Tim, one of our trip leaders, would be escorting me to my gate to make sure that I got on-board the aircraft. After 2 hours or so in the T2 arrivals lounge, we left and caught a shuttle bus to take us to the US Airways terminal. We walked inside and Tim began to enter the coach class check-in line, until I went up to him and informed him that I had a first class seat, which I didn’t think he expected, but he came with me to the proper queue and I was quickly checked in for USAirways flight 8, nonstop service to PHL. My bags were also checked in the process. With this taken care of, the next move was towards security, and we made it through with no difficulties. Once at the gate, the preboarding announcements had begun, so when First Class was called, I said goodbye to Tim and entered the aircraft (reg N171UW). I sat down and a drink order for after takeoff was immediately offered to me by the f/a, and I asked for a Coke no ice as usual. Of course I swiped the safety card since I did not already have the US A321 card, and then just waited patiently for pushback and takeoff. Both occurred relatively quickly, and as soon as the aircraft passed 10,000 feet the f/a’s were up and about in the forward galley preparing the drink orders. One of them came by offering a menu:
Mixed Seafood Cocktail
Seasonal Saland garnished with Tomato, Cucumber, and Croutons offered with your choice of Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar or Sour Cream & Herb dressing
Sunflower Boule, Tomato Breadsticks and Sourdough Rolls served with butter
Filet of Beef
Portabello onion encrusted fliet served with a red wine sauce accompanied by red skinned mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables
Hickory smoked grilled chicken served with a mango barbecue sauce enhanced by red skinned sour cream and chive mashed potatoes and grilled squash and zucchini
Peppered Tenderloin and Chicken Cold Plate
Peppered tenderloin and mesquite roasted chicken breast accompanied by chipotle pasta salad
Ice Cream Sundae
About 5 minutes later when orders were taken, I ordered the appetizer, salad with Oil and Vinegar, and Filet of Beef. My drink arrived shortly after that, and about 25 minutes after my order was placed, my meal arrived, and tasted pretty decent. Once my tray was cleared about 30 minutes later, I closed the table, lowered my seat, and immediately went to sleep. I was woken up by an f/a to the sound of “Wake up, sir, we are about to land” I tiredly gave a thanks and made sure my seat was prepared for landing. Even with it fully vertical, I still managed to drift in and out of sleep as the aircraft continued towards PHL. Landing was on runway 27R, and the taxi took us to an interior gate in B concourse. My anxiety built as the fasten seat belt sign was turned off at the gate. I wanted to see my parents really badly. Finally the doors were open, and after making a last sweep of the seat and overhead, I hurriedly stepped into the jetway and raced up it, and up the ramp inside the terminal, where my parents were waiting for me. We gave each other big hugs and proceeded down to baggage, where the usual delay happened. I didn’t mind though, as I had lots to tell my parents about, and when the baggage finally came after 20 minutes of waiting and we got into the car, my dad gave me the following instruction “When you get home the first thing you are doing is taking a shower”…gee thanks Dad!
That concludes the trip report. I apologize for the lack of detail on the final leg, but I was extremely exhausted on it, and didn’t really take any notes on it at all. I hope you all enjoyed reading it and I welcome comments, questions and feedback.
My next couple of unique trips will be:
US PHL-FLL-CLT-LAS-PHL in both F and Y class, that trip is going to be the end of March
Also, this coming summer I will be flying to SJO where I will be spending three weeks exploring Costa Rica, and then from there be continuing on to COS (w/o going home first) for 3 weeks in the Rockies. The exact airlines and flight itinerary have yet to be determined, but there will definitely be some interesting legs (at least for me) in there.
I may also post a TR of a recent trip to FLL since the flight portions turned out to be interesting, but this will only be done when time permits.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to read this.